Feather corticosterone content in predatory birds in relation to body condition and hepatic metal concentration

Strong, Rebecca J.; Pereira, M. Gloria; Shore, Richard F.; Henrys, Peter A.; Pottinger, Tom G.. 2015 Feather corticosterone content in predatory birds in relation to body condition and hepatic metal concentration. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 214. 47-55.

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This study investigated the feasibility of measuring corticosterone in feathers from cryo-archived raptor specimens, in order to provide a retrospective assessment of the activity of the stress axis in relation to contaminant burden. Feather samples were taken from sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, kestrel Falco tinnunculus, buzzard Buteo buteo, barn owl Tyto alba, and tawny owl Strix aluco and the variation in feather CORT concentrations with respect to species, age, sex, feather position, and body condition was assessed. In sparrowhawks only, variation in feather CORT content was compared with hepatic metal concentrations. For individuals, CORT concentration (pg mm-1) in adjacent primary flight feathers (P5 and P6), and left and right wing primaries (P5), was statistically indistinguishable. The lowest concentrations of CORT were found in sparrowhawk feathers and CORT concentrations did not vary systematically with age or sex for any species. Significant relationships between feather CORT content and condition were observed in only tawny owl and kestrel. In sparrowhawks, feather CORT concentration was found to be positively related to the hepatic concentrations of five metals (Cd, Mn, Co, Cu, Mo) and the metalloid As. There was also a negative relationship between measures of condition and total hepatic metal concentration in males. The results suggest that some factors affecting CORT uptake by feathers remain to be resolved but feather CORT content from archived specimens has the potential to provide a simple effects biomarker for exposure to environmental contaminants.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Parr
ISSN: 0016-6480
Additional Keywords: corticosterone, feather, raptor, owl, metal, stress
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Biology and Microbiology
Date made live: 26 Mar 2015 10:21 +0 (UTC)

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